Letters from a traveller | #3

Urucureá + Alma-raíz
July 19, 2019

In a breakup I decided to go to Alter do Chão. I remember until today, I was at the joinery, in the interior of São Paulo, I borrowed Guto's computer while he and David were performing a job where i couldn't help. I sat down and in a matter of minutes I bought the ticket and booked the hostel for the followingweek, then closed my eyes, took adeep breath and felt relieved.

The next day, back in São Paulo, I spent at Artesol,which is a non-profit organization that has been working for almost two decades investing in the appreciation and promotion of traditional Brazilian handicrafts (it is very worth going into their website and understanding a little more about this wonderful work done by so many amazing hands). There I met Jô (Jossiane  Massom  amazing professional and friend of the dearest) and conversation goes, conversation comes, Commented that I wanted to start thinking where i would direct my look in the next collection. I was looking for a community or artisan who needed this "new look", I thought of the braids because Brazil is extraordinarily rich in this art and I had not worked with it.


Jô pointed to the colorful baskets of the Urucureá community, asked me if I liked it and started telling wonders about people and work. She ended up saying:


There's only one problem. it’s extremely far!

How far away? I asked.

- In Pará! - she said smiling.

- Where in Pará? I'm going there next week! I replied.

- It's about two, three hours by boat from Alter do Chão. -it was Jô's answer, which I heard incredulous!


Since then there have been three trips there and many stories to share!

The boat trip departs from Alter, goes along the coast towards Santarém to a certain point where we set off for the tapajós crossing until you reach the other side, where the River Arapiuns awaits us and a little further,  Urucureá..


The first time I made the crossing I faced a Tapajós that looked more like a wild sea, with huge waves that shook the boat and left me and Edevaldo, the boatman, drenched.


My second trip to the region was in September, and quite different from the first time, I caught a quieter Tapajós, with blue sky and sun. But the day after the crossing, I lost my memory and needed to be "rescued" by my sister who came to pick me up by plane and brought me straight to the hospital in São Paulo. I always laugh when I remember that! I left everyone crazy, worried about me, who besides not knowing what he was doing in Pará and even that he was developing projects with craftsmen (!!!!!!), still suffered from recent memory loss, which made them need to repeat all the explanations for me as soon as they had finished talking. Just so as not to scare you, what I had was an episode of Transient Global Amnesia, which has no specific cause and no sequels, except those 24 hours that I will never remember. I have to this day written in the notebook of the collection the phrase that Lena dictated an hour that could no longer repeat the same thing!!!


The third time I decided to cross the river was January and I was surprised by a heavy rain that began at night and extended into the early hours of the morning, reaching the time we should leave Alter with the boat. The best thing to do was to leave it for another day, but I had already arranged with the girls who were waiting for me there in the community and had no way to warn them. I didn't want to leave them in my hand again, after all amnesia had taken me out of there months before. I called Edevaldo to see if it was safe to make the crossing with that time and he replied that if I didn't make a point of getting dry and swinging a lot, there would be no problem, so we move on.


The joy of the girls when they saw me arrive with the pieces of wood with which they would start weaving the straw was worth every drop of rain and waves faced!


This time there was nothing to prevent me from returning to Urucureá several times during my stay at the inn until the day the pieces were ready to cross the river along with me on the way to Alter do Chão. I remember thrilled the girls taking the pieces to the boat, each carrying the piece that had woven with a smile stamped on their face and a joy that seemed to make them shine.


And it was then that I saw one of the most striking scenes of my life, when we left the River Arapiuns  to enter the Tapajós River,it welcomed us as a mirror, smooth and calm as I had never seenbefore. A wonderful rainbow was right there, in front of us, reflected in it, giving the feeling that there was no beginning or end, there was no horizon line limiting our gaze.


At that moment I thanked, thanked a lot, for many things and for many people, but I also thanked myself for not having given up ever, despite all the obstacles that appeared along the way. It was as if Tapajós had tested my limits, showed that my work is an immense responsibility and that I needed to be sure of what and how I was accomplishing it. I passed the test, and the new collection received its blessing.

Thank you Tapajós, thank you Urucureá, thank you, thank you, thank you. I can only thank you for the opportunity I've had and that I've been able to embrace. I hope you enjoy the result of this first completed step that I will present soon!

About the author

Yankatu - Design + Art with Brazilian soul

Maria Fernanda Paes de Barros Penteado

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